So I'm watching something on TV a few weeks back—a football game, I think, or at least that's what the Vikings claimed it was—and I catch my first glimpse of the first trailer for the new Hugh Jackman movie that's opening this week: Real Steel. And for the first few seconds, I actually thought it going to be Rock'Em Sock'Em Robots: The Movie.
I meant, sure, why not? If they can make a movie based on the Battleship board game, why the heck not? Why not Chutes and Ladders: The Movie? It'd be a great thriller. See, they're all trapped in this malfunctioning high-tech office building, and they have to get to the helicopter pad on the roof to escape—
Sorry, I digress.
A few more seconds into the trailer, and I start to get that old familiar sinking feeling. No, it can't be. Then the title card flashes up, and I realize—
Yes, it is. It's yet another big-budget big-screen two-hour remake of a fifty-year-old half-hour Twilight Zone episode. In this case, the TZ episode in question was "Steel," which in turn was an adaptation of an even older short story by Richard Matheson, which was first published in F&SF in 1956.
Let's hope they at least changed the ending this time. The original ending was a seriously cynical downer.
Look, I'm glad Richard Matheson is still alive, and I hope he's collecting a major ***load of royalties and residuals for this one. But come on: aren't there any original ideas in Hollywood?
If I were ever to teach a formal course in science fiction and the writing thereof, this one would be on the required reading list:
It's a collection of Richard Matheson short stories from the 1950s, repackaged as if to look like it's a spinoff from the most recent remake of I Am Legend. You can find it on Amazon, if you so desire, but I'd recommend looking for it first in your local Goodwill. There should be a pile of copies in the 10-books-for-$1.49 bin.
As it is, I'm seriously thinking of making this one required reading for all potential STUPEFYING STORIES contributors. Not only is Matheson a true master of the "ironic twist" ending, and the stories are for the most part a bunch of short, fast, and fun reads, it's also a really terrific compendium of the story ideas that were really very hot and clever... 50 to 60 years ago.
Get this book. Read it. If the really clever idea you have for the story you want to write is in this book—move on. Write something else.
Let the arguments begin.
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